The Nationals know they have a long way to go before they can climb out of their current hole in the NL East standings. That said, the feeling among players after Sunday afternoon's series-clinching win over the Milwaukee Brewers was the hope that their biggest bugaboo in recent weeks -- the struggling offense -- might finally start to to turn things around.
You can put Wilson Ramos at the top of that list. His mammoth fifth-inning home run off Matt Garza to right-center (measured at an estimated 436 feet) was just his third extra-base hit in the month of August and was his first long ball since July 21.
"It was a good day," the beaming 28-year-old catcher said at his locker after the game. "That at-bat I was looking for the fastball. He throw me the fastball on the first pitch for a ball. He throw it again, and I was waiting for it."
Ramos' struggles at the plate have gone mostly under the radar this season, particularly when compared to the attention that the likes of Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth have received during their respective slumps. But unlike a good chunk of the lineup, Ramos' health hasn't been the issue all year. At 95 games played, he's on pace to play close to a full season for the first time since his breakout 2011 campaign.
In fact, Ramos was willing to show reporters just how eager he is to return to his form from four years ago. As he was talking during his postgame interview, he pulled out one of the many sheets of paper in his locker that featured pictorial differences between his 2011 batting stance and stride at the plate versus what he's doing recently. It was a lighthearted moment that drew laughter, but was an illustration of what he's trying to do to resuscitate his power numbers for the season's stretch run.
"I feel more comfortable right now," he said. "Those pictures help me to change my approach at home plate. That helped me out a little bit. Today I was swinging great at the plate, seeing the ball good and that help me to go out there and get more confident. I need to get my comfort back."
It's easy to forget now, but at one point Ramos was once projected to be one of the better power-hitting catchers in the National League. Even as recently as 2013, he slugged .470 through 78 games, which would have been good for second in the NL at the position had he played in enough games to qualify. Of course, one home run doesn't cure one's ails, but Sunday's moonshot was a reminder that he still has that kind of ability.
"That’s the kind of power he’s got," said manager Matt Williams. "If he can elevate the pitch and elevate the way he hits the ball then he can do that. Good single to right in the first at-bat and then the homer. Good swings."
Like many Nats hitters, it's probably too late for Ramos to finish the season with big-time numbers. But a solid weekend could be the launching pad for happier times during the season's most critical juncture.
"[It] feels great right now," Ramos said. "After a bad day, a good day [is] coming. So we have to enjoy every good moment."